Originally, I was going to use this title for a pithy list of challenges and opportunities related to the dissertation process for the Spring semester (which is, indeed, no disco). Upon reading feedback from my students for the Fall semester, I decided to take this title in a different direction, and that is expectations of work and readings in college. College is serious business, and while there are so many opportunities to enjoy in college, there is still a deeper meaning for why you have dedicated four years and many economic resources to undertaking this education. The title is not meant to be dismissive, but rather a unifying lyric for the amount of work it takes to get through it all. What you will find below is some honest and helpful advice to manage expectations for students entering the world of higher education for the first time. Sometimes it seems daunting, and even overwhelming, when faced with the syllabus and reading list for the first time. There are also some protocol lessons that you just do not realize as a newbie. Here are my best “lessons learned” to share with you:
As we count down to 2013, I think this is sage advice for all of us who feel a little stuck or in a place of transition. As I try to get through the dissertation process and decide what the path forward looks like, I have had many a sleepless night wondering “What if?” and “What’s next?”. No one knows that answer. But the best we can do is to jump enthusiastically and purposefully forward with the hope that if we follow our internal compass, the net will be there to guide us safely to the ground.
An alternative title for this post could be, “How we make futile attempts to exercise control over the universe.” I’ll explain…
I have had a few conversations with colleagues and friends lately that have me thinking about the sometimes irrational, obsessive hobbying that crops up amongst graduate students. Even if you do not have your own, you certainly know a colleague or friend that has has taken their “outside interests” to the extreme. From the friend who was going to dress up for opening night of the Hunger Games (I’m looking at you @LizzyErwin) or the colleague racking up marathon mileage on their bicycle, I know more people who are not just taking up a hobby, but taking it to the next level. Hobbies and interests are constant through society, but there is something about graduate students who like to kick up the intensity.
Every year, I tell myself that the Spring semester is going to be so much quieter than the Fall. I tell myself I will set goals. I will take this time to reflect and prioritize. I will not get overwhelmed… And then, suddenly, it is April. Response papers need to be graded, graduation ceremonies to be planned, and my inbox is proliferated with conference announcements for interesting events going on nationwide. With those announcements come calls/requests for proposals to present, and eagerly, graduate students go into overdrive to assess their research and where it fits in to the conference theme. As I entered this phase of my semester, I was lucky enough to have some great possibilities to propose to conferences, many of which were products of a research partnership.
As I began preparing the proposals, it occurred to me that I had little idea on how to properly determine the author order. As I have gone through my professional career, I have seen different expectations for collaboration, ghost writing, and sharing of credit based on rank rather than the contribution to the research. Some projects have been an egalitarian experience with appropriate credit-share. Others have been more… let us say… inequitable. Up until now, I never gave it much thought past the idea that this is what is customary based on age, notability, rank, etc. What I failed to realize until I got further into the PhD process is that formalized guidelines do exist to help you figure out the complex puzzle of co-authorship.
To compliment the “Distractions” posting by KRED, I thought it would important to mention not only distraction management, but the regaining of momentum following the holiday. As I am sure many people feel, you rush, rush, rush to get to the holidays, make sure that all gifts are bought and social events attended, you collapse in a heap after New Year’s and then it’s just… January. Some of us enjoy a month-long break. Others take the few days off for the holiday and get right back into it. I returned back to work on January 3rd, ready to tackle what I hope to be a productive Spring semester. Thus far, it has been exactly that. Unfortunately, it has meant that I have been not up to too much blogging and I’ve been a bit swamped. So, in honor of the crazy thus far, I wanted to get a little post up so I could help regain momentum. First, a video! And then I will explain my reasoning for including this:
“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” – Lao Tzu
Graduate school is a large life decision that can both enrich your life and frustrate you. Like our friend Lao Tzu alludes, it’s not the pursuit of comfort that you exercise by entering graduate school, but the pursuit of knowledge. As I put the close on this semester and look back, I think about how many challenges and triumphs we had this Fall. For one, my husband recently completed his first semester of graduate studies. Now, I have been a student or worked in an academic environment for the last 11 years, so I took for granted the struggle of a professional coming back to school for the first time in a decade. In this blog post, I want to give a little “Grad School for Beginners” for those who might be needing a little refresher in the basics. Some of you may be seasoned veterans who are teaching a class for the first time,. I hope this post serves as a good starting point for your students. For others, you may be dipping your toe in the grad school waters, taking a class this Spring semester. As we get ready to get back in to the swing of things, here are some of the best lessons and resources that I’ve learned to help get you through it.
As I wrote in my first post at Research Salad, we compile statistics at our library. We track number of visitors, number of queries, number of consultations and loans, and number of publications catalogued and uploaded. In previous libraries, we’ve had Access databases to help us track and process this information. Where I currently work, without time to develop a similar system, I have a series of spreadsheets to collect the same data. However, these numbers are not all I collect.
When I started work here, I received a very good piece of advice: remember to thank those who help you and keep track of the thanks you receive.
I remember writing school reports entirely by hand when I was growing up in the United States. In an effort to give all students equal opportunities, we were prohibited from typing our reports until junior high school because not all students had computers or typewriters and computer labs with word processing software in elementary schools weren’t yet commonplace. At the start of the school year, my mom would buy several reams of lined paper because a single, good paper, required many drafts and many pieces of paper.
I’d start with penciled statements on 3×5 cards and then move on to pages of penciled notes. Then there would be penciled outlines and drafts. Then there would be at least one draft in black or blue pen (I loved those erasable pens when they came out; even as imperfect as they were, they saved so much time). Then my mom, who proofread my papers, would find mistakes in my “final” draft, mark them in red pen, and then I’d write out another final draft. I remember having an aching and tender writing bump at the end of the process, but a nice and neatly handwritten report.